Any urban project involving a main thoroughfare presents difficulties in terms of inconvenience to the public; in a small community like Clintonville, these projects are often perceived as having the potential for very serious economic effects.
While the community almost always sees the project as a very necessary and positive improvement, the prospect of customers being unable to reach small, locally-owned businesses and the potential negative impact on travelers and tourists can also be the impetus for considerable apprehension and negativism.
The Clintonville project involved reconstruction (including replacement of underground utilities) of an eight-block segment of WIS 22 (Main Street), through the commercial heart of the city. Early on in the design phase, it became apparent that design and construction factors were going to present significant obstacles that had to be overcome.
Because of the scope of the work, it would be necessary to completely close WIS 22 for the duration of construction - a period of six months. WisDOT, its design consultant, the city of Clintonville and the Main Street business community realized the necessity of working together to make the project proceed smoothly and successfully.
Starting early in the design process, designers met with Clintonville officials and the business community to discuss potential problems, possible solutions to those problems, and practical and aesthetic design details. The business community and the Chamber of Commerce worked actively with their membership and met regularly with designers. Block captains were appointed from affected businesses and given the task of keeping other businesses on their block informed. They also carried concerns from the business owners to the project designers and the city.
Numerous features that were suggested and approved by the business community and the city were incorporated into the final plans for WIS 22. In addition to the normal number of public meetings, efforts were made to keep the local newspaper staff well informed and to present project efforts in a positive light.
At the start of construction, an official groundbreaking was held, demonstrating a high level of state and local government and community support. The local newspaper printed and distributed maps showing its readers how to get around with the detour in place. The newspaper also agreed to print a weekly feature article on the progress of the project.
From the start of construction, the contractor and WisDOT's project engineer held weekly meetings to keep the community informed of ongoing activities and the schedule for the future. As the project progressed, these meetings became daily contact with designees from the affected businesses and it was widely publicized that the project engineer and his staff were available to discuss the project and answer concerns at any time. Engineering staff visited all of the affected businesses along Main Street at least weekly.
The business community worked with WisDOT and the city to find ways to lessen the impact of the project. A number of innovative ideas designed to draw business were used, including the use of indoor/outdoor carpeting for "sidewalks," the scheduling of a weekend tournament on the "world's longest sand volleyball court" prior to paving, to other events culminating with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Complete with a parade down WIS 22, the ribbon cutting was attended by then-Governor Tommy Thompson, former Transportation Secretary Charles Thompson, other state and local officials, and a crowd estimated at 1,500. After the new roadway was dedicated, the community held a street dance and cookout, which appeared to be attended by most of the citizens of Clintonville.
As a result of these efforts, Clintonville's Main Street project gave the community an attractive and functional thoroughfare, the impetus to take part in the statewide Main Street revitalization project, and a real sense of pride in what a community can accomplish by working together and "making lemonade when given lemons."